Is this Islam’s “true voice”?

AFP Outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair has made clear that promoting dialogue between religious faiths will be a centerpiece of his retirement. He’s kicking things off this week with an international conference hosted by Cambridge University entitled, “Islam and Muslims in the World Today.” Blair said today that the conference is an opportunity “to hear Islam’s true voice.” Among the participants (pdf) who ...

601505_070604_gomaa_05.jpg
601505_070604_gomaa_05.jpg

AFP

Outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair has made clear that promoting dialogue between religious faiths will be a centerpiece of his retirement. He's kicking things off this week with an international conference hosted by Cambridge University entitled, "Islam and Muslims in the World Today."

Blair said today that the conference is an opportunity "to hear Islam's true voice." Among the participants (pdf) who apparently represent this voice is Sheikh Ali Gomaa, the grand mufti of Egypt who is said to be on the liberal end of the Sheikh spectrum. Yet among Gomaa's more famous beliefs is a fatwa that condemned artists and banned the displaying of statues in people's private homes, a statement supporting the terrorist group Hezbollah during last summer's war with Israel, and this bizarre comment justifying the beating of women in some instances:

AFP

Outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair has made clear that promoting dialogue between religious faiths will be a centerpiece of his retirement. He’s kicking things off this week with an international conference hosted by Cambridge University entitled, “Islam and Muslims in the World Today.”

Blair said today that the conference is an opportunity “to hear Islam’s true voice.” Among the participants (pdf) who apparently represent this voice is Sheikh Ali Gomaa, the grand mufti of Egypt who is said to be on the liberal end of the Sheikh spectrum. Yet among Gomaa’s more famous beliefs is a fatwa that condemned artists and banned the displaying of statues in people’s private homes, a statement supporting the terrorist group Hezbollah during last summer’s war with Israel, and this bizarre comment justifying the beating of women in some instances:

Women in some cultures are not averse to beatings. They consider it as an expression of masculinity, and as a kind of control, which she herself desires. In other societies, it is the exact opposite. […]

I got a question from Canada. The man said: “Here, it is a crime to beat a wife, even with a toothbrush. Is this prohibition acceptable in Islam?” Yes. Islam accepts that the beating of Canadian wives, in this culture and ambience […] From childhood they are taught that beating women is a type of barbarism, savagery, and so on. There is nothing wrong with taking this into consideration, and adapting to society, because Islam did not command us to be aggressive towards women.

If in their culture, this constitutes aggression towards women, then we are forbidden to be aggressive towards women. […] But when Allah permitted wife-beating, He permitted it to the other side of culture, which considers it as one of the means to preserve the family, and as one of the means to preserve stability.

Interfaith dialogue is an admirable goal. We need more of it and, particularly, those of us in the West could use more exposure to the “true” voices of Islam. But it’s sad when these efforts amount to little more than pathetic displays of cultural relativism.

(Hat tip: Damian Thompson)

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